The Inner World – the undiscovered terrain

As I’ve been reading Into the Wild, I’ve had a strong sense that McCandless’ journeys through the physical landscapes of North America were a means of searching an inner landscape that he yearned to explore. In this blog piece, Looking for Another Country, Dwight Longenecker writes that:

C.S. Lewis names this longing with the German word sehnsucht. He calls it “the inconsolable longing in the heart for we know not what.” At the end of Pilgrim’s Regress he said it was, “That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of Kubla Khan, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.”

This longing remains dormant in daily life until it is sparked by a profound aesthetic experience. Suddenly the soul awakes, and the longing is fleetingly fulfilled. C.S. Lewis called this surge in the heart, this uplift “Joy”. This painfully exquisite joy comes unbidden and echoes in his heart like the sounding of the distant horn of a long lost hero. 

McCandless was obviously deeply unsatisfied with a life that was unfulfilling. He went in search of the experience that would awaken his soul. 

But how does one step into the inner landscape and discover what awaits there?

For the writer Pico Iyer, his first step was to spend time in a Catholic hermitage, where he was able to discover that stepping away from the tumult of the modern world inevitably helped him to be a better person. For more on this, read Krista Tippett’s “The Inner World is a great, undiscovered terrain.

McCandless’ pilgrimage into the wild was perhaps a way to find a place where his existence made sense, and to find a place where he could become a better person. His journal entries reveal that he was captivated by the notion of truth. He was awed by the landscape through which he travelled. Omir Safi, in a piece title “Cherishing Rough Edges over Smoothness“, writes:

We connect to nature because we are nature. It is us. It is around us. We are inside her. When we are most un-natural is when we see ourselves as cut off.

Those of us who have not heard the call of the wild that McCandless obviously did still struggle to understand his reasons and motivations for doing what he did. We fail to understand the terrain he felt compelled to discover. We fail to hear the call.

respond to the call

Into the Wild is a reminder that we all have a untouched wilderness inside ourselves. What will happen if we try to understand “the inconsolable longing in the heart for we know not what”?

Following the breadcrumbs…

Below are some links to articles/pieces/ideas that have something to say about ‘going wild’.

The more you read, the more connections you will make as you work through ‘Into the Wild’. The text that I’ve copied way down below is about the desert and what it can symbolise – as soon as I read it, I thought of Chris in the desert, finding the oh-so-hot-springs, and the friend he made, Ron Franz. As I kept following this thread, I found this quote: Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, ‘We are all travelers in what John Bunyan calls the wilderness of this world. And the best that we find in our travels is an honest friend – they keep us worthy of ourselves.’” Ron Franz was certainly an honest friend.

This then led me to Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (which is mentioned by McCandless), and then to Mark Twains’ An Innocent Abroad, and then to CS Lewis, who wrote A Pilgrim’s Regress, in which he wrote: “You all know,” said the Guide, “that security is mortals’ greatest enemy.” In an instant, I thought of McCandless’ letter to Ron (p58) in which he wrote: “..but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.”

This doesn’t necessarily make a context piece, but it starts the cogs turning. It’s allows me to visualise/imagine a landscape (a desert?) in which someone seeks to let go of the security that binds and blinds us. Where could this take me?

What about this for a big idea: People often seek new experiences in wild landscapes in order to escape the grip of the modern world.

THIS IS THE THINKING I WANT YOU TO START ATTEMPTING…follow the breadcrumbs of a thought. Let them mull in your mind. Nurture them into ideas. Shape them into a piece of writing.

As you read through these pieces below, start to make the active connections between the words of these texts and the words of John Krakauer.

“…this Valley is a solitary place. The Prophet Jeremiah thus describes it: A wilderness, a land of deserts and pits, a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, a land that no man (but a Christian) passeth through, and where no man dwelt.”” – John Bunyan – The Pilgram’s Progress

Wandering in the desert

From: Imagery and Sybolism in Counselling – William Stewart.

cloudHQ has saved the day!

It might seem strange that my first post of the year is about a cloud storage program thingy…but it is.

I have been using Evernote now for 3 years. It revolutionised the way I organised myself and my information. I was able to create detailed lesson plans that remained fluid and flexible – perfect for the dynamic nature of the classroom – and that were easy to find through tags and dates and titles.

But, recently I have changed schools, and much of my Evernote notebooks and notes can be archived for now. This is where cloudHQ comes in. Up until now, if I wanted to export a note from Evernote I had to package it as a HTML file, which if I’m being honest, means absolutely nothing to me. But I came across cloud HQ on a forum and it is EXACTLY what I was looking for.

cloudHQ has allowed me to export my Evernote notebooks and notes completely and identically as they appear in Evernote into Box. I now have an archive of my Evernote data that is structured exactly like it was in Evernote – all 1515 items! What this means is that I can go looking for a file or a note or a photo as easily in Box as it was in Evernote.

This is a godsend.

Unless you actually use Evernote this may be gobbledygook. But for anyone who does, and wants to export Evernote data, this is the program for you!

Be Happy: Leunig, Authenticity & Reality

Happy Clappy

Each time we discuss illusion and reality we return to the notion that money and success will not automatically lead to happiness. Which is all fine and well…but what, then, does lead to happiness?

Be Happy, an article on ‘Less Wrong’, which describes itself as a ‘blog community devoted to refining the art of human rationality’, brings together, in a nutshell, some thoughts on Materialism and being happy.

Cheerful to a Fault, by Alfie Kohn who writes widely on human behavior, education, and parenting, explores the negative implications of always being positive and cheerful. It echoes Leunig’s feelings in Lest We Forget: in “nicey-nicey land you must be happy-clappy and positive all the time – bad news is taboo.”

Living the Dreaming: Time, Authenticity & Leunig’s String of Pearls

It is always nice to come across a piece of writing that supports something I’ve felt and tried to convey to you all in class.

The other day, during our reading of ‘Grasping For Sacred Particles of Joy’ in The Lot I raised the notion of ‘time’ and we discussed the difficulty in thinking too much about what it is. But, essentially, in our lives we see time as linear. It moves from left to right, from the beginning to the end, from birth to death. The ‘passage of time’ idea feeds directly into the ‘life is a journey’ metaphor that dominates our reality.

Leunig explores and challenges the traditional view (the dominant view) that life, like time, is a journey that only travels in one direction, like a river. He creates the metaphor of the string of pearls – our lives end up becoming like “the coherent story of a life that might have looked good in a book or newspaper obituary” – and suggests that a good life is one that “has a pleasing lack of storyline.”

At the time I referred to the Indigenous Australian’s Dreaming and suggested that it deals with a completely foreign concept of time – there is no ‘back then’, but more of an ‘always was, is, and will be.’ I think I also referred to the ‘Glory Be’, which is part of the Prayers of the Rosary and conveys a similar concept:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Kurt Vonnegut, who Leunig refers to in Xenophobia and Memorabilia – and who you can find a little more about HERE – once said in an interview: “Nothing in this world is ever final – no one ever ends – we keep bouncing back and forth in time, we go on and on ad infinitum.”  In his novel Slaughterhouse Five Vonnegut often writes the phrase: “So it goes.” It is a nod to existentialist philosophy and the inevitably of death, especially amongst the backdrop of war. See if you can find Leunig’s homage to this phrase in one of his essays!

I thinkg that Leunig is trying to connect with the sense of infiniteness with his words: “There are no outskirts; it goes on and on,” (The Lot, p159) And it is a concept that is discussed in the article Is Your Future Already Decided?

But what do we make of this? What I want to do is simply draw your attention to an idea that is out there – one that Leunig draws upon, and that links to his view on the importance of Australian Indigenous culture.

But coming back the Dreaming. Some of you will be drawing upon Leunig’s view on the importance of nature and understanding our place in it, and so this piece, LIVING THE DREAMING, might be interesting.